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Robots and ag technology take over my world

Robots and ag technology take over my world
Appreciating technology on the farm and using it are two different things.

I was born to appreciate technology. As a child of the 1950s and '60s, I saw how to work the hard way, forking silage and scooping manure by hand. I wasn't born at the right time to use technology – much of it, even how to use it, let alone how it works, is far beyond me. But it fascinated me nonetheless.

Perhaps no ag technology has caught my eye and made me laugh and say, "why didn't I think of that" more than the pint-sized Lely robotic sweeper in the free-stall barn at Dave and Lance Sommers farm near Berne.

R2D2 does his 'thing': If a machine can be cute, this pint-sized silage sweeper is cute, moving up and down the aisle, sweeping silage back toward the feed bunk.

The Sommers family will help host the Indiana Farm Management Tour on June 23-24 in Jay and Adams County. This tour will also feature the 2015 Master Farmer award ceremonies as part of the tour's evening program.

Lance Sommers had just shown me his robotic milkers, quite great technology in its own right. One cow he drove in to demonstrate – only about 7% don't figure out how to go in on their own – likes to kick at the milkers. It brought back memories of cows on our small dairy that liked to prance and kick. But the robot doesn't get tired and doesn't give up. Eventually, the robot wins.

Still, when I walked in the free-stall barn and saw the round, three-feet tall, robotic sweeper going up and down the aisles on its own, kicking back in feed that the cows had pushed out, it was a hoot.

My immediate thought was that this must be the twin of R2D2, the famous, lovable robot from the original Star War series.

As it turns out, this isn't even new technology. Sold by Lely, it's actually been around for a while. But it was new to me. And it eliminated someone with a tractor or skid-steer needing to push feed back over so cows can clean it up more completely.

So here's to where agriculture is headed – the future will no doubt be all about technology. I will continue to appreciate it because I know full well what it was like without it. And I'll write about it. I just may not understand it well enough to use it!

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